SCOTUS Issues 2 Historic Rulings for LGBT Equality

The U.S. Supreme Court released two majority decisions this morning that will have a profound impact for many of our clients and on the lives of LGBT people throughout California and the United States.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, on the grounds that it singled out for special treatment an entire group of people. The Court’s decision was based on the fact that under DOMA the marriages of gay and lesbian people, married in a state where same-sex marriage was legal, were not recognized under federal law, whereas marriages of heterosexual couples in those same states were recognized. The Court’s DOMA ruling does not change the laws in any state—each state retains the right to determine whether same-sex marriage is legal under its law. However, this morning’s ruling certainly does pave the way for future legal challenges to state laws banning same-sex marriage. Perhaps even more importantly, it means that legally married same-sex couples will now be treated the same as heterosexual married couples in the areas of Social Security benefits, U.S. taxes, immigration policy, and scores of other ways in which married couples benefit financially and legally under federal law.

While it’s not the “whole tamale” in sweeping scope that the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 struck down laws legalizing segregation nationwide, the Court’s striking down of DOMA is a historically significant step—a game-changer—in the direction of equality for LGBT people.

In its second marriage decision of the morning, the Supreme Court ruled that the parties who appealed the 2009 Federal District Court decision overturning the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 all the way to the Supreme Court did not have the legal “standing” to do so. In other words, the state of California, which had legal standing, declined to defend Proposition 8 on the grounds it was unconstitutional, and attorneys and anti-gay activists supporting Proposition 8 were not directly harmed by its overturning, and thus did not have standing. In this decision, the Court again refrained from a ruling that would change any existing state law other than California’s. The immediate impact is that same-sex marriage, legalized by the California legislature in May 2008 and banned by 52% of California voters approving Prop 8 in November 2008, will resume again in California almost immediately. Here, too, future legal challenges to bans on same-sex marriages in other states will certainly reference the California decision.

For our gay and lesbian parents and intended parents, for children of LGBT parents, for LGBT youth who face fear and invalidation in the face of socially permitted discrimination, for all of us who believe all people deserve equal treatment under the law, this is a banner day. The war is not won, there are more battles yet to come, but in the face of such overwhelming evidence that societal norms have shifted as the Court demonstrated today, one has to believe a corner has been turned, in the right direction.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.